Sekiro Has Revealed Much to Us
(The following is an opinion of the article writer, and does not reflect the views of DVS Gaming as a whole)
Everyone knew that it was only going to take one incredibly difficult AAA title to tip the scale. Over the last few years, gamers have been showing a greater objection to fixed-difficulty games. When Capcom released the retro-style Mega Man 10 in 2010, an easy mode was added which created platforms for players to use in difficult areas. Many popular MMORPGs “nerfed” their most daunting NPCs and dungeons because of public outcry due to difficulty. And now, From Software’s far eastern masterpiece, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, is under scrutiny for being too difficult for some players to progress through. This debate has hit a fever pitch among players, and many are calling for an easy mode in the game.
The views on Sekiro’s difficulty are certainly valid, especially concerning further progression through the game. Every enemy is a threat to the protagonist, and the player must use patience and skill to navigate through the complex and often unforgiving combat system. Some players have claimed that they do not have the natural reflexes to keep up with the game’s action. On top of this, every death has a stiff penalty. Due to this, many players see a large portion of the game as being inaccessible to them. These players paid full price, so surely they should be able to experience the full content of the game, right?
The Question of Disability
Over the last few weeks, this debate has turned into the “battle royale of gaming journalism.” I, along with all of my fellow writers, have felt the sting of this disagreement because it has brought the review process to a grinding halt. No one wants to review Sekiro because of the subjective bias that they may be accused of based off of their skill level. Why is this such a big deal? Difficult games have been around since gaming began in the late ’70s, why is it becoming an issue at this point in time?
The reason for this debate is based around the question of players with disabilities. There are some players who do not have the cognitive or intellectual skill to be able to respond quickly enough to the prompts that the game requires for success. For players who are missing appendages, this game is nearly impossible to complete. Those gamers are unfortunately placed on the sidelines of storyline completion. The story of Sekiro is heralded as being deep and engaging, and some players will not be able to experience that for themselves due to their handicap. At least, that is how some players are seeing it.
The dialogue that was opened by this debate is more than necessary in 2019. Games are becoming the new novels and storybooks, each tale being handcrafted by master writers to engage an eager audience. When Sekiro revived the issue of accessibility in games, three truths emerged from the fray.
Three Truths Brought to Light
First, not all games are for all people. Sekiro is a face-paced hack and slash that cannot be successfully played by players who do not have the motor skills to do so. From Software has made a plethora of difficult games in the past, each requiring players to adapt and practice in order to “git gud.” This challenge is by design. It is difficult so that finishing the game will prove to be a truly satisfying victory.
Second, the gaming industry does not cater to people with disabilities. Making video games for amputees and visually impaired persons is possible, but the market is very small. The gaming industry wants the games to be challenging yet fair, and they make sure to focus on the majority of the players who have all their faculties and functions intact.
Finally, we live in an “everyone wins” culture. This is just the fact, and it can be seen through how game design has changed over the last 25 years. Older titles were designed to be short, but incredibly difficult so that replay value could be sustained. Old school gamers came to accept the challenge, but something changed at the turn of century. As the culture of winning and losing became a self-esteem issue to younger players, people began to complain. They wanted games that could be conquered with more grinding and less skill. Thus modern day games were born, and Sekiro does not fit into that mold.
Some Final Considerations
No matter what side of the debate you stand on, everyone can agree that times have changed. Modern day video games are like a gallon of ice cream; you might not be able to get through it in one sitting, but you will eventually finish it if you keep at it. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is not that type of game, and I do not think that it should be. It was designed to be challenging and prohibitive. If gamers can work and improve upon their reactionary skills, then they will be better for it in the future.
Let us allow for this game to teach all of us a very valuable lesson. Life, like games, can be very hard. There is not an easy mode for the real world. Honestly, it can often seem like an impossibly large task to take on. However, I believe that diligence, patience, and hard work can make even the most daunting tasks possible to complete. Keep working at those difficult games, when you win the reward will be far greater than if you got there through an “easy mode.”